Thinking about renovating your home? Me too!

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Anyone else finding it overwhelming? I hear you! Embarking on a home renovation is exciting and daunting in equal measure. I speak from personal experience. My own plans, brewing since before lockdown, have still not come to fruition, thanks to a combination of rising costs, external influences beyond my control and – I admit – no little amount of procrastination on my part.

The cost of building has increased since the pandemic and price is an important factor for most of us. Wondering what it’s going to cost from the outset means it’s tempting to think that the first thing you should do is to get a quote from a builder. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with Carl for almost two years, and speaking with around a dozen builders, is that this is not the first step in the process. Not if you want the job to be the best it can possibly be and for the build to go well.

Do you know what do you want?

When I first started thinking about making changes to my home, I had a few ideas, mostly based on seeing what a friend had done. There’s nothing like a bit of good old fashioned envy to get the juices flowing. I wanted my friend had done because I’d seen it. And even though her home was a little larger, I knew it would make a difference and improve the layout of my long narrow terrace house. Then I got chatting to another friend, someone with a bit more vision, which sent me racing over to Pinterest for inspiration. It was there I saw exactly how my home could look with a side extension. This is it, I thought. This is what I want.

At this point I consulted Carl, who came round to see the house and spent time listening to what had in mind. He asked me how I wanted the house to work and what I was trying to achieve. In essence, more light, a bit more space than I have and for the whole thing to work better for how I want to live in it.

Now frankly, given the right budget, Carl could have turned my house into something from Grand Designs. In fact, I distinctly remember one of his ideas, which involved flipping my Victorian terrace upside down, with the bedrooms on the ground floor and a light, spacious open-plan living area occupying the entire upstairs and a terrace with steps down to my little Southsea garden. Or maybe it was a dream I had.

Flights of fantasy aside, the ideas he did have were things I hadn’t thought of. How about switching the kitchen and the dining room, given that the latter was basically acting as a corridor for 90 percent of the time. With glazed panels in this area, you’ll get light to your new kitchen and rooflights here and here will bring light to your new dining/living space, which will be open right out to the garden. I’d recommend these doors on the back and oh yes, you can fit a downstairs cloakroom in that little bit of space back there. Bingo! We agreed a design and he submitted a planning application for me. This is something he will do for all clients by the way.

And what do you need?

Planning permission was granted but, in the interim period, personal circumstances meant my dream extension has required some rationalisation. Initially I was gutted, but once I’d got my head around things, I settled back and asked myself exactly what I needed. The answer was that I still needed my Victorian terrace home to work better for me than it does now. Re-enter one Mr Leroy-Smith, who realised this project isn’t the one where Kevin McCloud shows up, and who got down to brass tacks, as they say where I come from. In half an hour I felt happier about the house again and more enthusiastic than I’d done for months. Why? Because he could still see how the space can be improved and work in the way I want it to. Where I saw obstacles and he had a solution or an alternative. Of course he did, that’s his job and he probably redesigns homes in his sleep. So what next?

A plan and a process

Now I have a plan and a process. Carl has created a design that serves as a blueprint going forward. Builders can look at it and give me a quote. We know the size of the steel required when a supporting wall comes down. We know what’s required to level the floor between two rooms so the builder can estimate the cost of that, and we know how that will affect the roof height and what that means for materials and costs. The builders on our approved list all prefer to work with an architect’s design to be able to give the best estimate they can, which is helpful for me as the client.

I’ll talk to one or two builders and, with Carl’s design in hand, I’ll visit some kitchen companies and discuss what layouts will work within the plan. I might consult an interior designer for some insights and another pair of eyes on it. This is a small project by most people’s standards, but for me it’s huge. It’s the most money I’ll ever spend on my home, and I want to get it absolutely right. Watch this space.

Ready to talk?

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